Sunday, November 18, 2012

Friday the 13th: A New Beginning




Looks like we got ourselves a maniac on the loose, huh, sheriff?

To me, especially after watching it again tonight (yes, I actually have the first five films in my DVD library..), Friday the 13th: A New Beginning is the bottom of the barrel of the franchise, perfect for critics of the movies to use as an example of what was wrong with the slasher genre as a whole during this time in the 80s. That said, if you like the trashier, nastier aspects of the slasher genre (not necessarily in graphic violence, because A New Beginning exposed the increasingly advanced censorship arising as the decade would close), such as nudity for nudity sake, profanity-laced dialogue, and characters introduced and slaughtered without much development (lots of characters simply in the film to die, such as a couple of leather jackets, one of whom gets a lit flare in his mouth (Yikes!)). I realize many, many slasher fans watch these films just for such aspects, but even the third film in the series gave the characters a little bit of personality and development.

In A New Beginning, we get Tommy taken to a camp for troubled young adults located in a rural county unnamed but perhaps located somewhere near Wessex County where the Jason Voorhies murders took place. When one of the group, a chubby kid named Joey (Domick Brascia), gets *hacked to pieces* by an unstable fellow misfit named Victor J Faden (Mark Venturini; I figure this has been asked before, but why would Victor be allowed a chopping ax when it is clear the way he was hacking away at the log that he should be nowhere near one?), it sets off a psychopath who carries the appearance of Jason Voorhies. Since Jason was killed in the previous installment of the Friday series, A New Beginning has us wondering who it is behind the disguise.

In a scene where the mayor (Ric Mancini) is tearing into his sheriff (Marco St. John) regarding a body count in their county, we learn during their heated conversation that Jason Voorhies was cremated, a detail debated but interesting nonetheless, although after this A New Beginning, the sixth Friday film, Jason Lives, puts this to rest. The sheriff believes Jason is responsible when his reasoning is shat on by the mayor for its preposterousness. It is a way by the screenplay to keep Jason’s presence in the viewer’s mind. In fact, director Danny Steinmann and his screenwriting team are bound and determined to keep Jason on the mind as he is introduced time and again within the nightmares and disturbed psyche of Tommy Jarvis, now as a twenty-something unable to shake the killer who took his mother and seriously injured his sister.

While the killer in this film resembles Jason closely, how Danny keeps them separate is through the different hockey mask with two blue marks under the eye holes instead of the red mark above the eye holes. It’s just a small change but does establish a difference. What A New Beginning also does is hammer the point home that pretty much anyone can catch people off-guard with a hatchet, ax, machete, or knife, and Jason, in the beginning, was just a bumbling oaf with the willingness to kill in memory of his mother.

The fact that the killer was a paramedic who lost his marbles once he laid eyes on the butchered remains of his son, Joey, shouldn’t outrage Friday fans since he was, in essence, just following a similar path as Jason, a motive of revenge, unleashing the savage on anyone in the area near where the heinous murder happened. Sad truth is: the one responsible got off scot-free. I think that is where the film is flimsy: the killer just does in everybody in the general area of the troubled kids camp. There’s this loose cannon murder spree spurned from the murder of a son and the killer is whisked away while all those who had nothing at all to do with it suffers for it. And, that’s the thing, those who put this film together didn’t give a shit about flimsy reasoning for why innocent people are executed because they knew that the film would probably bank a profit just because of how it is associated with the Jason Voorhies franchise.

You big dildo, eat your fucking slop.
Ethel and Junior (Carol Locatell and Ron Sloan), two grotesque characters dreamed up by script writers who seemed hell bent on delivering the Friday the 13th universe a different brand of victims to be stabbed and chopped. You have Billy the orderly working for a mental health institute who is repulsively sexist and snorts coke while waiting for his diner waitress girlfriend, Lana. You have Eddie and Tina (John Robert Dixon and Debi Su Voorhees), a couple always screwing around in the woods or somewhere near Ethel’s farm, one final lay before they die something awful (a pair of bush trimmers and a leather strap both harming the eyes, two very memorably vicious kills making into the Friday Murder Set Piece Hall of Fame). There’s the awesomeness that is Miguel A. Núñez Jr., with quite the Jheri curl, getting it while dropping a load an outhouse (I think this awesome in how his character is trapped in there as a spike sticks in and out before finally puncturing through him), his character clad in leather, driving a van (yes, any character traveling in a van gets bonus points from me). I like his scene with little brother, Reggie, “the reckless” (Shavar Ross), even if it is not given very much time. You even have some wanderer, stopping into the film for two scenes, one to work for Ethel, and the other to peep on Tina and Eddie, getting a blade in the stomach. Characters are introduced just long enough for us to get their names and a little dialogue before taking a sharp pointy object in numerous parts of their bodies.



Here, have an enchilada.

While I consider this one of the worst of the films in the franchise, Reggie the Reckless is one of my favorite characters and John Shepherd has one of my favorite performances as Tommy Jarvis. Shepherd brings a quiet intensity and shows the rupture of mania bursting the seams of his sanity. He barely speaks at all, stands in silence and off to himself when the camp’s leaders, Matt (Richard Young) and Pam (Melanie Kinnaman) attempt to loosen him up and get through to him. While most of the film is show characters, listen to them speak garbage, and die, I think Tommy’s inclusion is the best part of the entirety of the screenplay. This is where those involved in the film were most inspired.

There’s a serious attempt to establish Tommy as the new franchise killer to fill Jason’s spot, but this would be immediately snuffed out (pun intended) in the next film…in favor of bringing back Jason. The ending is really odd because I question why a butcher knife and hockey mask would be in Tommy’s hospital room to begin with. Saying this, I have to say that the final image of Tommy in the hockey mask with the butcher knife is rather impressive…it does emphasize that all because Jason is dead doesn’t mean the body count ends with him. Also, the ending, to me, also comments on how Jason has kind of “grabbed a hold” of Tommy, his influence powerful from beyond the grave. When the figment of Jason, in hockey mask, stands over an unnerved Tommy, slowly vanishing, and we see Shepherd’s face transforming from frightened to receptive (eventually fashioned into a cold-blooded visage), it’s probably my favorite overall scene in the film. I consider it a good piece of acting.

The cult of the film I think derives from its willingness to sleaze. The Ethel and Junior characters, filthy on the outside and inside, the “rock chick” Violet (Tiffany Helm, her hair spiked, always with earphones on, blanking out her surroundings in favor of her music, nicknamed “Vi”) who dances the robot (I really recommend the song she listens to, “His Eyes” from Pseudo Echo), and Juliette Cummins (as Robin) who seems cast in the film strictly to show her hot bod (she’s got a lustful admirer in the stuttering, but sweet Jake, played by Jerry Pavlon).



Debi Sue and her well-regarded bust, a chainsaw-machete battle (inside yet another barn, a location that had become the go-to place for a Jason or Jason wannabe to duke it out with his quarry), and a tough case of the runs thanks to those pesky enchiladas. Seeing Reggie drive a forklift right at (..and Pam take the machete right to) the Jason imposter were bright spots at the end and in the movie. So, while I think this part in the franchise was one of the worst, I can see why it has held a following. 

It is funny. The Final Chapter was supposedly the end of the franchise yet Jason’s body hadn’t been even warm in the grave before A New Beginning was green lit and hit theaters the next year. You just can’t keep a popular franchise down when the green keeps stockpiling, even if Paramount was ashamed to put the films in theaters. Ironic that a production company would continue to put out film after film after film every year even though they hated the franchise that made them a bucket load.
 
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Vi doing the Robot


While Corey Feldman's inclusion at the beginning appears to be a concerted effort to bring his name value (it did mean something at this point, you know..) to this fifth film (curious if his role would have been substantial if it weren't for The Goonies), I think it does, in a sense, tie the fourth and fifth films together and, in turn, prolongs the Tommy series. It would have a fitting end in the next sequel.

Reggie the Reckless about to mow through the killer.
It was funny, I was watching the Friday ten minute doc and it never occurred to me that this sequel had like 20 kills! Every six or so minutes, Danny Steinmann had to bump a character off, and for that very reason, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning does have a certain notoriety attached to it. I think it also says that the film was specifically designed as a kill machine.

A Kill List










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